Books

Building digital platforms

Thomas K Thomas | Updated on March 14, 2021

Title: Platform Scale: For A Post-Pandemic World Author: Sangeet Paul Choudary Publisher: Penguin Random House Price: ₹799

A book on digital players in the post-pandemic world

The pandemic has increased the pace of technology adoption across the globe as clients and their customers move to a digital environment. Technology is becoming all-pervasive and the importance of responsible use and building of technology is imperative for all stakeholders — government, industry, start-ups, and citizens.

While the initial wave of entrepreneurs has built out platforms that bring together infrastructure, network, and data in this highly digital world, new players are eager to capitalise on the opportunity that has emerged in the post-pandemic world.

Sangeet Paul Choudary’s new book ‘Platform Scale: For A Post-Pandemic World’ offers a great insight into how this new world is shaping up consumer and producer behaviour, why platforms are rapidly scaling up, and factors that will cement their dominance in a post-pandemic world.

The book builds on Choudary’s earlier book ‘Platform Scale: How an emerging business model helps startups build large empires with minimum investment’ published in 2015, to make sense of the complex world of the platform business.

The book answers important questions related to the platform model and Choudary throws in a lot of real-world examples to highlight what worked and what failed for platforms. But parts of the book are heavy on theoretical aspects which could be useful for students, researchers, and academics.

Structured approach

The book has a very structured approach covering all aspects of platform businesses including a framework for platform economy, a checklist for designing platforms, how to transition from existing models to becoming a platform, and why scale could be the biggest threat to platforms. The book is a must-read for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and students who want to get a deeper understanding of how business models are changing in the digital world.

The author, however, misses out on two key aspects when it comes to building platforms. One of the big areas of concern has been the negative impact of digital platforms on society at large. For example, while social media platforms have done stellar work in connecting people and services, it also exerts immense influence on the social, economic and political outcomes of a country.

This power allows such platforms to be misused as it could become a potent weapon in the hands of any ruling regime to change the course of elections. While companies have been building out digital products and services at a fast pace in their rush to be the first to leverage the booming online economy, it is only recently that founders and investors are beginning to think about how to curtail any negative impact of digital platforms.

Future platforms buildout should be solving this problem at the design stage itself. Not after the platform is built out and launched. Though Choudary has made a passing reference to the ‘dark side’ of the platform economy in the epilogue, this could have been a separate chapter in itself.

The book also misses out on a discussion on how regulations related to data protection and privacy are impacting the platform architecture. This is an evolving area as countries around the world, including India, are grappling with putting in place adequate laws to protect data from unlawful access.

The key question here is how do platforms harness the power of new technologies such as AI and Machine Learning that require massive amounts of data, without impinging on data privacy. Then there are government agencies that are seeking data to keep a tab on people and companies for national security purposes.

The imperative of balancing regulation and innovation will be key as we are in a phase of accelerated technology shifts. Choudary could have highlighted examples of how regulations are impacting platform design and architecture.

Published on March 14, 2021

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